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Milosevic brought back to Serbia for burial

THE body of Slobodan Milosevic arrived in Serbia on Wednesday for private burial in the grounds of his provincial home, instead of the high-profile funeral sought by his dwindling band of supporters.

He came home almost five years after being extradited by the reformists w

ho toppled him. The vicious Balkan wars he presided over in the 1990s led him finally to The Hague, where he died a few months before a verdict was due in his war crimes trial.

There was no special flight. A Yugoslav airlines plane brought Milosevic’s remains from Amsterdam, landing at Belgrade airport, among snow-covered fields, just outside the city.

His coffin, draped in the Serbian flag, was kissed by officials of his Socialist Party, then covered with a wreath of red roses. No government officials were present.

A few hundred mourners outside the airport placed wreaths on the hearse as it drove past and sobbing women threw roses. Crowds lined highway overpasses for a glimpse of the convoy.

The Socialists plan to display the casket tomorrow in a tent outside the old federal parliament in the heart of the city — the same sidewalk that in 2000 overflowed with anti-Milosevic protesters shouting: “He’s finished.”

Until then, supporters will be able to pay their respects in a little-known museum in the leafy suburb of Dedinje, where his official residence was bombed by Nato during its 1999 campaign to force Serbian troops out of the breakaway province of Kosovo.

The Socialists are seeking permission to bury him tomorrow in the grounds of the family property in Pozarevac, his sleepy hometown 80 km east of Belgrade.

The Milosevic clan once ran businesses there, including a bakery, disco and a theme park. Supporters left flowers and candles on the gates of the three houses set in a large garden.

The Socialists, who in their heyday dominated political life in Serbia, now have only 22 seats out of 250 in parliament.

They and the ultranationalist Radical Party initially sought a state funeral for Milosevic, then something akin to one, hoping to create a martyr to their nationalist cause. A threat to shame the government by burying him in Russia failed.

Elected Serbian president in 1990 on a wave of Serb nationalism, Milosevic was ousted in 2000 after public protests following a decade of war. He was arrested and sent to The Hague in 2001, after which his popularity rapidly diminished.

But a core of support persisted for a regime that had profited cronies while ordinary Serbs were bankrupted by war and sanctions. On March 12, 2003, an assassin killed Zoran Djindjic, the young reformist prime minister who had Milosevic extradited.

The Djindjic state funeral was the country’s largest since the death of Yugoslav leader Tito in 1980, with a procession of more than half a million mourners through central Belgrade.

Milosevic is unlikely to have such a send-off. It was still unclear whether his widow Mira Markovic would attend the funeral. She faces charges of corruption in Serbia during the decade in which her influence and political power made her virtually an equal partner of her husband.

Neither she, nor her son Marko have arrived from Moscow.

A Russian doctor sent from Moscow to check the results of the Dutch autopsy said on Wednesday he was satisfied Milosevic’s death on Saturday was from a heart attack, but said he could have been saved if he had travelled to Russia for treatment.  — Reuter.

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